A missing brain enzyme could be responsible for painkiller addiction, according to a new study. With prescription drug abuse reaching epidemic levels, researchers at the University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles examined why some people are more vulnerable to opioid addiction than others. Opioids are produced naturally in the body, but addiction occurs when synthetic opioids—found in heroin and prescription medications like morphine and codeine—alter brain chemical balance. The researchers used mice and eliminated an enzyme called prohormone convertase 2 (PC2)—which converts pre-hormonal substances into active hormones in certain parts of the brain. Past research by the same team found that PC2 levels increase after long-term morphine treatment. “This raises the possibility that PC2-derived peptides may be involved in some of the addiction parameters related to morphine," says Theodore C. Friedman, MD, PhD, chairman of the internal medicine department at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. After knocking out the PC2 enzyme in mice, Friedman and his team analyzed the effects of morphine on the brain. Their results show that concentrations of MOR—the mu opioid receptor that morphine normally binds to—were higher in mice lacking PC2. "In this study, we found that PC2 knockout mice have higher levels of MOR in brain regions related to drug addiction," Friedman says. "We conclude that PC2 regulates endogenous opioids involved in the addiction response and in its absence, up-regulation of MOR expression occurs in key brain areas related to drug addiction." The researchers see these results as promising, and are expected to conduct more studies of this nature in the near future.
A Las Vegas liquor store is removing a billboard that reads: "Alcohol: It's cheaper than therapy" after it pissed off passers by and sparked a Change.org petition. The owner of Lee's Discount Liquor, Kenny Lee, says the billboard was meant to complement the business's comedic TV ads, one which featured a celebrity cameo by NFL legend Mike Ditka. But locals didn't find the message so funny. Some petitioned for the billboard to be removed, claiming it was insensitive to alcohol's dangers including "broken families" and fatal DUI accidents. "With the alcohol problems Las Vegas residents and others have, the billboard encouraging alcohol consumption versus seeking therapy is a socially irresponsible message to everyone—children, teens, adults, and the victims of alcohol misuse," reads the petition. Lee wrote to the Las Vegas Sun to say that he would take down the controversial ad, which his father, who founded the liquor store, also did not find amusing. "Trust me, I heard an earful from my dad," Lee wrote. But not everyone was offended: an online poll provided by a local music radio station asked people if they were offended by Lee's billboard: 81% responded "It's a joke. Take it easy." While 18% said "Alcohol is nothing to joke about."
Pop star Rihanna is reportedly checking into The Ranch clinic in Tennessee for a "heartbreak therapy course" to help her move on from her turbulent on-again, off-again romance with singer Chris Brown. The Ranch's "Women's Love and Sex Addiction Treatment Program" is a 12-step style inpatient program that helps women who struggle with "attracting troubled, addicted, abusive or otherwise emotionally unavailable partners" by using a variety of treatments ranging from counseling to equine therapy. "Rihanna is still desperately in love with Chris. It's like she's obsessed with him and, although he's told her it's over, she just can't get over him," a source told the UK's Grazia magazine. "After talking it through with a psychotherapist, Rihanna is now considering doing a 12-step programme to get rid of her demons." Rihanna would not be the first celebrity to seek treatment for this condition: Tiger Woods' mistress Rachel Uchitel was coping with a sex and love addiction during the 2010 season of Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Rihanna, 25, and Brown, 24, began dating in 2006, but split in 2009 when he infamously assaulted her after a pre-Grammy party. They became romantically involved again last January, but reportedly split in April after Brown continued to spend time with his ex-girlfriend and declared that he was in love with "two women." The tumultuous relationship may also be taking a toll on her career; Rihanna reportedly took the stage two hours late for a recent UK show in Birmingham after partying until 3 am the night before. Last month, she was booed by fans in Boston for keeping them waiting three hours for a rescheduled show and not providing an opening act.
A British man on working holiday in Auckland, New Zealand is expected to make a full recovery after surviving a tumble off a 15th floor balcony. Tom Stilwell, 20, had been out drinking with his roommates when he left them to go home around 2 am—only to discover he had lost his keys, the New Zealand Herald reports. He woke up his upstairs neighbor, Geraldine Bautista, to ask for permission to jump from her balcony—on the 15th floor—down onto his own, one floor down. Bautista, 28, says she "didn't think he'd jump, because it's really scary," but it happened quickly, and within seconds he had slipped from her hands "like a paper." “I grabbed his hand and then at that time...he fell down," she recalls, "I thought I was dreaming. It happened so fast.” Stilwell fell 13 stories until he hit a roof of a nearby building, miraculously surviving with just back and neck fractures and a broken wrist. One of his roommates, Dave Thomas, arrived home just 15 minutes later to be greeted by police. “He's absolutely fine... he's a very lucky man,” says Thomas, “He's normally the sensible one of all of us.” Stilwell, who doesn't remember much of the fall, is currently recuperating at a nearby hospital and is in "satisfactory" condition. St John medical director Dr Tony Smith says surviving a fall from such a heights is "extraordinary."
- Mayo Clinic: Teens With Chronic Pain Should Not Use Medical Marijuana [CBS]
- Gaining Emotional Maturity is the Key to Addiction Recovery [Psych Central]
- Florida Fishermen Reel in $2.5 Million Bale of Cocaine [Fox]
- There Will Always Be More Drugs [The Atlantic]
- Samuel Jackson's Worst Audition: "I Smelt of Alcohol" [The New Zealand Herald]
- New Miss USA Committed to Fighting Drug, Alcohol Abuse [Delaware Online]
- Bear Mauls Drunk Man Who Feeds it Meat [The Inquisitr]
Fox News host Gregg Jarrett claimed today that marijuana could have made Trayvon Martin "irrational" and "violent” prior to his murder at the hand of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman, 29, is currently on trial and charged with second-degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Martin in the chest; he is pleading not guilty, claiming self-defense. During a live Internet broadcast of the Zimmerman trial jury selection, now in its second week, Jarrett told viewers that all evidence relating to Martin's history, including marijuana use, will not be made available to jurors. At a pre-trial hearing, Judge Debra Nelson ruled that jurors would not have access to details of Martin's past during opening statements. But former federal prosecutor Doug Burns noted today that the judge may allow evidence that Martin had pot in his system on the day of his murder, stating, “That’s a fact that the jury is entitled to know.” If toxicology results show that the 17-year-old was "high" at the time Zimmerman shot him, Jarrett said: "he may have acted irrationally and may have been violent.” Burns stated that the prosecution could put “the reverse spin" on this situation, "which is the effect of marijuana making you more mellow.…It can cut both ways. You could call an expert to say that marijuana doesn’t make you violent.” Zimmerman's attorney said at the hearing that Martin's prior drug use could be crucial to the self-defense argument, claiming that weed "could have affected [Martin's] behavior." But as The Fix's Maia Szalavitz pointed out last year: "Research finds no evidence that marijuana provokes violence. Quite the contrary: most studies on the issue either show no effect or a clear reduction in aggression."